I have been re-reading The Lizard in Landewednack, a great little book which we keep at the Cellars. It is very informative and was produced by the Lizard History Society. One of our neighbours was very involved with it. There was some interesting information from the war years so I thought I would put it in a blog.
In the book it describes how the Lizard, “geographically isolated from the rest of England, was transformed by the outbreak of World War 11. Suddenly the air buzzed with the strange accents of servicemen, land-girls and evacuees. It came as a shock to both sides.”
They had almost 100 evacuees in the village (which is a lot given the size of the village) during the war mostly from the Tottenham area in London. Can you imagine their shock of arriving on the Lizard! You could not get more extreme opposites in lots of respects including geography, weather and the people. An ex post master wrote in the book that every time the mail arrived the evacuees would rush to the post office hoping for a letter from home and he said the times when there was not a letter for them ”it used to break my heart when I had to tell them.”
The Womans Auxillary Air Force (WAAFS) were billeted at the Lloyds signal station (see first picture below), the Wrens at Housel Bay Hotel (see second picture below), solders at Morwenna (which I presume is the large house which is now appartments up the church cove road towards the village) and the Reading Room was for the Americans. There were apparently 200 Americans at one point. It would be interesting to know what the Cornish thought of them.
The small quarry very close to the Cellars just along the coast towards Cadgwith, was used to provide tons of stone for the construction of Predannack airfield near Mullion. Lots of lorries were used to carry the stone from the quarry. Seems incredible given the narrow road to the Cellars!
They were blasting, crushing and grading the stone in the quarry so it would not have been a very peaceful place to be then. But in fact the Cove was wired off and no one lived in the Cove till 1949 when part of it was converted to a private residence. I imagine this was the Cellars. RAF Predannack was opened in May 1941 as a satellite for RAF Portreath. 247 Squadron arrived on June 18 and the airfield a sea of mud and confusion with most of the accommodation incomplete. Its role was initially defence but this soon gave way to offensive operations. Officers were accommodated in the Mullion Cove and Polurrian Hotels. Predannack’s location made it suitable for emergency landings, particularly with the growth of the bomber offensive against mainland Europe. And as a result the RAF agreed to extend the runways in 1943 for larger aircraft. Today it is a satellite airfield and relief landing ground for nearby RNAS Culdrose.
The Luftwaffe attacked Predannack several times. Three 1,000 lb bombs were dropped during January 1942 but incredibly there were no casualties or damage. Much more difficult to deal with was the severe weather! which badly damaged some of the hangars.
The pace of farm life on the Lizard quickened as crop rotations were abandoned in favour of increased cultivation of wheat, potatoes and sugar beet. The US provided tractors to help Britain feed itself. I did not know this! Up to this point farming on the Lizard involved horses.
One person remembered that newspaper and cardboard was saved in all households and that as children they went round collecting “salvage”. I was curious about this so googled it and found that in 1941 the Department of National War Services put in place a nation-wide salvage program. Rags were collected for the making of blankets and bandages. Bones were made into glue for airport construction as well as being used in ammunitions. Fat from the cooking of meat would make one pound of dynamite! Paper was recycled into newspapers as this was the main source of communication at the time. Metals from old machinery, trucks and cars were recycled into planes, jeeps and tanks. Apparently this really cleaned up the countryside as well as helping the war effort!
Finally there was mention of a German parachute being found hidden in the gorse in one of the fields belonging to Churchtown farm, the farm just up the road from the Cellars. But there was no mention if they ever found its owner!!